Words by Jesse Serwer
It’s no secret that dancehall is a big part of the formula that makes Usain Bolt, Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinter’s iconic post-victory celebration was inspired by a step popular in dancehalls around the time of his first Olympics in 2008. Long after the details of Bolt’s countless victories — including tonight’s record-setting third gold medal in the 100 meters — are forgotten by most, that image of him, his arms pointed skyward, will be remembered as the most enduring reminder of his super-human abilities.
Bolt is no casual dancehall fan. In December 2015, he stopped into the long-running Kingston dancehall session Uptown Mondaze, earning the attention of the British tabloids by paying DJ Boom Boom to play only music by Vybz Kartel and other Gaza artists. At the 2012 Olympics in London, he visited the Puma Yard to DJ (or at least MC) a mostly dancehall set. He also was photographed at the London Games throwing up the sign from Kartel’s Gaza crew, along with his teammates on Jamaica’s 4×100 relay team.
Bolt’s affinity for dancehall is on full display in a brand-new video from little-known British duo the Arch Birds (featuring the vocals of singer Vanessa Haynes), part of an ad campaign by Virgin Media starring the sprinter. The biographical song is a bit cheesy — As far as Bolt tributes go, we’re more partial to “Lighting Bolt,” Vybz Kartel’s early-days ode from back in ’09. What we are loving is the appearance of Bolt — sweating more than he ever has in a race— moving in step with some of the Kingston dancehall scene’s top dancers, including Shakespear, Gabbidon, and the Elite Team. Watch the video here, and see our picks for more Caribbean athletes to watch at Rio 2016.